- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008

And then there was one.

Gov. Tim Kaine is the lone Virginia politician remaining on the rumored short list of potential running mates for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama. But while the Democrat, 50, has his share of supporters who would love to see the centrist Southern governor paired with the liberal Illinois senator, an anti-Kaine contingent says he lacks the accomplishments to share the national stage.

“I just think what’s going to trip him up is the state of Virginia right now has a lot of problems,” said Lowell Feld, a Virginia Democrat and blogger at www.raisingkaine.com. “And it’s not like this unmitigated record of success you could just point to. That’s the tricky part.”

Mr. Kaine became Virginia’s 70th governor in 2006 after serving four years as lieutenant governor. He became the sole Virginian in the Democratic vice presidential spotlight after former Gov. Mark Warner removed himself from the running last month and Sen. Jim Webb issued a statement Monday saying he also would bow out of contention.

Observers say Mr. Kaine’s chances of becoming the running mate hinge largely on the camaraderie between the politicians. The two got to know each other when Mr. Obama campaigned for Mr. Kaine in 2005 and have been close friends ever since.

Jerome Armstrong, a political consultant in Alexandria who worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, said the Obama-Kaine relationship reminds him of the Bill Clinton-Al Gore presidential ticket in 1992.

“It didn’t make total sense to a lot of people geography-wise, but when they got together as a ticket it was, ‘Oh yeah, they click,’ ” Mr. Armstrong said.

In February of last year, Mr. Kaine became the first governor outside of Illinois to endorse Mr. Obama. After locking up the nomination in June, the senator has been thanking early endorsers like Mr. Kaine for taking that risk so early in his campaign, and he likens the governor to family.

“Obviously, … somebody who took a bet on you when you were a long shot, there’s going to be a special place in your heart for them,” Mr. Obama told The Washington Times last month aboard his campaign plane.

He added there were “no favorites” in the veepstakes, but a few hours later at a rally in Bristow, Va., he was calling Mr. Kaine a friend for coming out so early with his support.

“When you’re in the political business, there are a lot of people who are your allies, there are a lot of people who you’ve got to do business with, but you don’t always have a lot of friends. The governor of the commonwealth of Virginia is my friend,” Mr. Obama said to raucous cheers.

At a Thursday town hall in Fairfax, Mr. Obama also lavished praise on Virginia first lady Anne Holton, calling her “a woman of extraordinary character and accomplishment” who has become a “great, great friend.” Mr. Kaine’s wife returned the favor when introducing him, saying she has “tremendous admiration for him and his family.”

Mr. Kaine has been praised for other qualities that could benefit Mr. Obama: A devout Catholic and former missionary in Honduras during the 1980s, the Spanish-fluent governor has made no secret about the role of his beliefs in his personal life, stating that he clearly sides with the Catholic Church against the death penalty and often mentioning his faith during his stump speeches.

With Virginia expected to play a crucial role in November’s presidential election, Mr. Kaine’s reputation as a campaigner who helped Democrats take the majority in the state senate last year also could help Mr. Obama earn an edge. The state has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said the governor is “flattered” to be mentioned as a vice presidential contender, but that “his focus right now is on governing Virginia.”

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